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Earl Boyles

  • Re-imagining Education Panel Discussion Recap

    IMG 2186 adjustedOn Wednesday, February 15, renowned early education scholar and advocate Ruby Takanishi sat down for a panel discussion with three Oregon educators at the forefront of integrating comprehensive early learning into public school settings. In a panel discussion moderated by Children’s Institute President and CEO Swati Adarkar, Takanishi talked with Beaverton School District Superintendent Don Grotting, Earl Boyles Principal Ericka Guynes, and Earl Boyles preschool teacher Andreina Velasco about the lessons learned from the innovative Early Works initiative at Earl Boyles Elementary School in Southeast Portland.

    Panelists in photo from left to right: Andreina Velasco, Don Grotting, Ruby Takanishi, Swati Adarkar (moderator), and Ericka Guynes.

    Early Works, a learning lab model that demonstrates best practices for integrating high-quality early education and wrap around services in elementary schools, is highlighted in Takanishi new book, First Things First! Creating the New American Primary School. Takanishi argues primary school would be more effective if it began with early learning at age three followed by compulsory full-day kindergarten at age five. All teachers (preschool to 12th grade) would have the same foundational professional degree with appropriate specialized education as necessary.

    For Takanishi, the continued societal inequality which manifests itself in disparities appearing as early as two years-old, there is a grave and urgent need to transform primary education. In First Things First! Creating the New American Primary School, she writes, “Talent is universally distributed. Opportunity to develop that talent, sadly, is not.” During the panel discussion, Takanishi said, “I was bothered by the very serious inequalities in the early learning arena. Low-income children’s access to early learning is severely restrained and programs for low-income kids are of lesser quality than those for more affluent kids. This is a civil rights and a human rights issue.” Combined with emerging scientific knowledge about the astonishing rate and breadth of young children’s brain development from birth to age five, the need to transform primary education has become even more urgent.

    Earl Boyles Elementary School is tackling inequality and nurturing the unlimited potential of young children by creating a high-quality early learning environment with wraparound services. Former David Douglas School District Superintendent Don Grotting calls this burgeoning practice of integrating early learning into the K-12 system, “a no brainer." "It would be ideal when a child is born for someone from the local school to go visit the family to congratulate them and welcome them to the school community,” he said. The emphasis on parent engagement and involvement in Early Works allows preschool teacher Andreina Velasco to develop authentic and sustainable relationships with parents and children. Home visits with families are an essential strategy for understanding and addressing challenges a child may bring to the classroom, from trauma and hunger to housing instability. Velasco told her fellow panel participants, "higher education needs to rethink how teachers are educated and prepared. Not only should we learn to work with other teachers, but with social workers and home visitors as well. Most teachers don’t have the time or the training to know what is happening for a child outside of the classroom. The classroom is envisioned as an island disconnected from the community.”

    A feature of the new American primary school central to Ruby Takanishi's thesis and practiced at Earl Boyles is consistent, dynamic leadership. The Professional Learning Community (PLC) created by Earl Boyles Principal Ericka Guynes prioritizes home visiting for preschool teachers and professional development with K-5 teachers. Guynes has also had to grapple with district-wide budget shortfalls while embarking on an initiative that would transform her school. “Early education teachers teach kids at the most critical time of children’s brain development," Guynes said. "We know that is true, but how do we convince everyone or get them on the same page when we have to make cuts in some areas, and we’re building a brand new preschool wing at the same time?” The lessons learned from Earl Boyles four years into Early Works can provide a framework to replicate the initiative in school districts throughout Oregon and across the nation.

    For the 50 people in attendance from the fields of education, philanthropy, and public policy, the panel discussion married theory and practice to reveal the challenges and opportunities inherent in re-imagining primary education. Takanishi closed the evening with a poignant reminder of what is at stake: “We can do better. We must do better. The facts are clear. Our future is tied to the future of children in public schools.”

    *Note: Thank you to New America for providing copies of First Things First! Creating the New American Primary School and to Aaron Lowenberg, New America Program Associate for event support.

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  • Earl Boyles Builds Literacy with Multnomah County Library Partnership

    Multnomah County Lending Library at Earl Boyles ElementaryAccess to books and time to read are essential for kids who want to explore, learn, and build their literacy skills. That’s why the Multnomah County Library (MCL) established a Lending Library at Earl Boyles Elementary in Southeast Portland — to provide a free resource for young readers and their families that removes barriers to books and reading.

    Considered a demonstration site, the Lending Library began three years ago with a grant from The Library Foundation and 2,500 hundred books. MCL moved forward with the initiative after learning about Early Works, an initiative launched by Children’s Institute with key partners including the David Douglas School District, Mt. Hood Community College Head Start, and Multnomah Early Childhood Program. MCL recognized an opportunity to serve the community with a unique public school partnership, impact early literacy in a high-needs community, and bring books directly to students and families.

    Increasing the number of books in the home is associated with improved literacy rates, and reaching 26 books or more in a household correlates with higher academic achievement in later years. Evaluations of the Earl Boyles community beginning in 2011 indicated a lack of books in the homes of kindergarteners. Today, the number of kindergarteners’ homes with more than 26 books has increased from 47 percent in 2011 to 74 percent in 2014.

    While the Lending Library now offers books for students of all ages and includes some parent resources, the collection focuses on books for children ages 0-5 and is meant to get more adults reading with young learners. This activity — adults reading with children every day — increases language and literacy development, particularly during the crucial years of brain development prior to kindergarten. 

    Multnomah County Lending Library at Earl Boyles Elementary“This kind of effort is more than providing access to books, it’s about what can happen with access,” says Katie O’Dell, the youth services director at Multnomah County Library. “Improving knowledge about school, culture, and health, building literacy and creativity, establishing relationships with trusted teachers… these are all results of immersing kids with lots of quality books.”

    MCL chose the first supply of books carefully and worked to represent the families served by Early Works and Earl Boyles. With diverse, multicultural themes, the books portray a range of cultures, languages, and stories to strengthen the connection between the school, library, and community.

    Ranked as one of the top libraries in the U.S., MCL has a strong track record of supporting efforts to stimulate reading and embraces the five principles of early literacy: read, talk, sing, play, and write. These provided the framework for a family breakfast series last year hosted by Children’s Institute that explored ways for parents and families to build literacy using each of the principles.

    Parents and families, in fact, are essential to the success of the Lending Library. A handful of parents from the Parents United Group at Earl Boyles maintain the library and help coordinate activities with AmeriCorps volunteers and Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) staff. Last year, they scheduled weekly story times in both English and Spanish.

    Renea Arnold, Every Child initiative supervisor at MCL, says the Lending Library has increased parent involvement in the school. “Placed right in the lobby of the school, it serves as a living room, a welcoming family space. Parents can come and support their child’s learning right at school.”

    Multnomah County Lending Library at Earl Boyles ElementaryStudents and families can take books home whenever they wish; no library card is needed and there is no due date. The collection is well-used and continues to grow, thanks to ongoing support from the Library Foundation and MCL’s supply of books that exit the library system.

    “Kids are always taking books home,” says Youn Sun Han, the SUN coordinator for the school. “They often bring them back and take new ones. But if we see the supply dwindling we get more.”

    O’Dell says reading will come to kids if they are surrounded by great materials. “We can always get more books, and we’re committed to providing a plethora of high-quality choices.”

    But what makes the Lending Library special is the network of supporters working to establish a culture of literacy at the school, one that depends on deep collaboration and collective efforts to address learning gaps in the early years for a high-needs community such as Earl Boyles.

    “We’re along for the ride,” says O’Dell. “We like to reinvent how MCL reaches our audiences, and this is a great example of how to surround people with books and help open doors for people to explore and learn.”

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  • Why This CCO Makes K-Readiness a Priority

    Peg King for blogPeg King leads Health Share of Oregon’s kindergarten readiness programming. Health Share is the largest Coordinated Care Organization in Oregon, serving approximately 25 percent of the state’s Medicaid patients. It is also one of the most innovative. We talked to King about state health care transformation, Health Share’s commitment to children’s early years, and its burgeoning partnership with Earl Boyles Elementary School in Southeast Portland. We also learned a little bit of Swahili along the way.

    CI: What are Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs)? What is their aim, and to whom are they obligated?

    PK: CCOs are private organizations (some are nonprofits, some are not) that contract with the state to coordinate Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) benefits for OHP members in their local communities. These benefits can include medical, mental health, substance use treatment, dental, and transportation services. Each CCO is different because they each reflect the community they serve, but they all work toward the same goals of better care, smarter spending and healthier people — the Triple Aim.

    As a locally owned nonprofit, Health Share’s obligation is first to our members, next to the State of Oregon and its taxpayers, and finally to the providers who serve our members. Health Share works on a local level to ensure Oregon Health Plan members in the tri-county area get the care they need, when they need it. We work with our community to build bridges — connecting our members to services like early learning initiatives, screening and integrated services in maternity care, access to transportation, and more. These connections allow us to hold down costs, improve systems, and quickly identify member and community concerns so we can work together to solve them in a community-based and culturally appropriate way.

    CI: Why has Health Share decided to prioritize kindergarten readiness and serving families during the earliest years of a child’s life?

    PK: When Oregon signed the Medicaid waiver agreement, the state promised to decrease spending by two percent over five years by improving the way Medicaid services are delivered. To meet this promise, Health Share, like most CCOs, began by addressing the highest utilizing and most costly members. Health Share conducted a qualitative study of these individuals, asking them to describe their lives. The results were really compelling. Most of these members had grown up in chaotic, unstable families. Some had been physically or sexually abused and some had been in and out of the foster care system. Many of them had not finished high school and had more than one chronic physical condition. They did not have childhoods that prepared them to be successful in school or life.

    aces pyramid for blogThis all mirrored what we knew from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES), published in 1998, that first established the link between toxic stress/childhood adversity and poor mental/physical health in adulthood. The things that derail a healthy life course are often things that are influenced in early life — attachment and bonding, skilled parenting, and social and emotional health. Science now clearly shows that early life adversity impacts the development and architecture of a child’s brain. In the face of such clear evidence, Health Share opted to have a strategic focus on prevention/early life health promotion. By moving our efforts upstream, we hope to improve long-term health outcomes for our members, reduce the number of “high utilizers,” and to ultimately curb Medicaid costs.

    CI: What does health look like during the earliest years of a child’s life?

    PK: In the early years of a child’s life, you cannot take health and well-being out of the context of the family. Health and well-being means having a stable and nurturing home and neighborhood environment, access to healthy food, and attachment to emotionally healthy parents or caregivers who have the resources, knowledge, and support to meet the child’s needs. Health is much more than just visiting the doctor for check-ups and shots; there is a growing body of research on this. That said, the health care system is sometimes the only system that regularly touches kids before they enter kindergarten, so it is a good place to not only deliver primary care, but to also provide education, parenting support, and referrals to local resources that address the social determinants of health and education.

    CI: Why is focusing on prevention unique for a CCO? What shift in thinking does it require?

    PK: The focus on prevention is a shift in thinking from traditional managed care. Most health plans and even Medicaid managed care entities are responsible for showing outcomes in the short term. Their job is to manage the “risk” or health outcomes of a certain population of people. Since people switch health plans for all sorts of reasons throughout their life, the incentives for health plans are to keep those people healthy only while they are members of that particular health plan.

    Focusing upstream on prevention requires us to think about the community, rather than the CCO, as the entity that is going to receive the return on our investment in the long-term. If we can help support families with young children to create stable environments for their children, then those children will grow up to be healthier, both mentally and physically. Health Share will not likely experience that return on investment for our current members, but future health plans, payers, and the community at large will.

    CI: How are you working to identify current gaps in the services your community needs?

    PK: Listening and reading! There has been a lot of incredible work done and documented in recent years, including reports, white papers, and community needs assessments. All of this has been of great value. In addition, I spent six months meeting with and listening to dozens of people across multiple systems: primary care, developmental pediatrics, educational service districts, early learning hubs, immigrant and refugee organizations, DHS, parent groups, child-care providers, community-based organizations, home visitors (and more). That is how we know what we don’t know. The best way to figure out what is needed is to go out into the community and listen. At Health Share, we have access to incredibly rich data from our medical claims. We use this to create dashboards and identify trends, gaps, and needs. Healthy equity is a top priority of ours, and our data helps us keep an equity lens on all of our work. Our data is disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and language — among many other factors — so we can identify what populations aren’t being reached and where we might want to focus our efforts.

    CI: How are the CCOs and state early learning hubs collaborating?

    PK: With recent health and early learning transformation efforts, and overlapping metrics such as developmental screening, the CCOs and state early learning hubs are working more closely and effectively together. It’s exciting to see. The health care and education systems have historically been funded and legislated in silos, so this kind of collaboration is exciting, but can also be difficult and complex. We are all looking for new ways to solve old problems through sharing resources, collaboration and, hopefully, paying for things differently.

    At Health Share, we are “buddies” with the three early learning hubs in our region: Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties. There is a joint committee that meets monthly between Family Care (the other CCO in the region), Health Share, and the hubs where we discuss join initiatives and align work.

    CI: Tell us a little about the Community Health Worker project Health Share is piloting at Earl Boyles Elementary, one of CI’s Early Works sites.

    PK: It is a demonstration project showing how the health and school systems can integrate better to serve families. The goal is to get families that aren’t connected to health services connected. The community health worker at Earl Boyles will build these connections at the school and will also work to build connections with local primary care clinics who house their own community health workers. We are especially excited because it is addressing a community-identified need. I am very encouraged by the idea of schools as community spaces, welcoming spaces where families can connect with each other, the school, and community services. Ensuring kids have all the preventive services by kindergarten is simply a different way of serving our members in a different place (in this case, their neighborhood school) which might be more comfortable and accessible to them.

    CI: Why is Health Share interested in lifting up kindergarten readiness and health work to the state policy level?

    PK: The science is clear on brain development and early intervention, but policy hasn’t caught up yet.
    As the state’s largest CCO, having brought together one of the most diverse sets of stakeholders to focus on transforming health care for Oregon Health Plan (OHP) members, we believe that it is incumbent on us to take a leadership role in setting Medicaid policy for the state. We are in a unique position to view policy issues from a lens of what is best for our members and our community, without regard to the individual interests of any one part of the system. That said, we try to stay focused on OHP-specific issues because that is where our expertise lies.

    Policy is ultimately the only way to stabilize a view of the wider system and ensure sustainable funding. There are so many incredible small projects and initiative and great ideas out there, but until we have policies that drive collaboration and systems thinking, it will be hard to find permanent solutions.

    CI: What are the biggest gaps you see in the current state health system?

    PK: This isn’t really a question Health Share should answer for the state, but we can answer what gaps we’re focused on bridging in our community.

    At Health Share, we know that health doesn’t just happen in the doctor’s office — it starts in the community. For all of us, our health depends on where we live, work, play, and go to school. Upstream factors such as access to healthy food, social networks, poverty, and stable housing are just important as quality health care services. By bridging the gaps between health care services and other community-based services (such as education, transportation, etc.), and by partnering with community organizations to build trust and bring services directly to our members, we can help them get the care they need to be healthy and well.

    lionCI: A little bird told us you speak Swahili from your time in the Peace Corps. What is your favorite saying?

    PK: Simba mwnda pole ndiye mla nyama. It means, “The lion who moves slowly is the one who eats the meat.”

     

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  • Early Works Helps Earl Boyles Families with Housing Needs

    Early Works this summer is helping Earl Boyles Elementary families stay in their homes or find new ones as housing costs climb throughout east Multnomah County.

    Josue Peña-Juarez, the new program’s housing and family advocate, has embarked on seeking new homes for two families who have been evicted from their apartments.

    One man, his pregnant wife and three children recently received a 90-day no-cause eviction, and another family was evicted after a kitchen fire in their apartment. Peña-Juarez, who works out of an office in the school, will tap a housing assistance fund if needed to subsidize the families’ monthly rent and cover the first- and last-month deposit that landlords often require. However, just finding an available apartment is challenging because units have become scarce within Earl Boyle’s enrollment area, he says.

    home forward blog versionChildren’s Institute partnered with parents, Multnomah County’s Home Forward and other agencies to catalyze the new housing assistance program after a health assessment of Earl Boyles families revealed housing as their top concern, says Dana Hepper, director of policy and programs at the Institute.

    In a survey of 83 families, the Institute found 75 percent of them had seen a rent increase in the last year, averaging $95. The increases were cutting into family budgets for food, clothing and other basic needs and in some cases pushing families out of their homes to live in motels or with friends and relatives or in less-expensive housing outside the Earl Boyles enrollment area.

    That kind of disruption undermines Early Works’ chief objective of fostering early learning and school success at Earl Boyles. Children miss school and suffer stress that can contribute to emotional and behavioral problems, Hepper says.

    “We were finding chronic absenteeism started in preschool through elementary school was in part driven by housing issues,” she says. “Stable, adequate housing we felt would improve attendance, which would help early learning.”

    Student mobility, the movement of children from Earl Boyles to other schools, is low because families want to take advantage of its preschool and will do whatever they can to stay in the enrollment area, Hepper says. The Institute’s survey showed a third of families were getting help paying rent, most from families and friends.

    The housing program exemplifies how multiple agencies can produce powerful results when they join forces on a common goal. After the Earl Boyles community named housing as its chief concern, Hepper met with Rachel Langford, education and youth initiatives director for Home Forward, the housing authority for Multnomah County. The agency agreed to put up $175,000 for each of two years to assist Earl Boyles families with housing costs. Home Forward has had success reducing student mobility at Alder Elementary in the nearby Reynolds School District and was impressed with the case Early Works made for housing needs at Earl Boyles, Langford says.

    “We are trying to do more to be intentional about how we serve families in Multnomah County and how we serve kids in our work,” she says. “Earl Boyles data made it easy to do that.”

    Multnomah County provided money to hire Peña-Juarez, who works through Portland’s Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, an agency the county contracts with to administer its programs. He has been working since last fall as a family resource navigator at Earl Boyles for the county’s Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) program so he already knows many of the families. Now his focus is on housing.

    “I’m trying to be a broker of communication around housing services and explaining that to families in a way that is understandable and clear,” he says.

    To get help, families must live within the Earl Boyles enrollment area and have gross annual incomes below 50 percent of the area median income, $36,650 for a family of four. The program gives priority to families in crisis of eviction or living in unstable housing, such as a motel or with another family. Program leaders expect that most of their housing money will be used to subsidize the rent of low-income families.

    The Earl Boyles Service Coordination Team, which includes the school’s SUN site manager, principal, counselor, Early Works site liaison and IRCO housing and family advocate, meets every two weeks to consider applicants for housing help.

    No one is sure how much demand there will be, Hepper says, but “we think the dollar amount will serve 50 families a year.”

    The program also is helping families tap other agencies for help and is providing classes through the Earl Boyles Neighborhood Center on tenant rights, says Elena Rivera, who is working with partners on the program as Children Institute’s health policy and program adviser. Providing housing help through a school offers a new model, Rivera says.

    The housing effort may help Home Forward see more clearly how its assistance helps families and children in school, Langford says.

    “My hope in the first couple of years of this program is that we see it has a huge impact and we have the resources going forward,” she says. “Data is powerful in making that case.”

    Children’s Institute will be collecting information on how the program affects children’s attendance, school performance and other indicators, Rivera says.

    She says she wants the program “to demonstrate some positive outcomes that continue to shed light on the need to work with the whole child. Children cannot perform well in school if their basic needs are not met.”

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  • Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce: Alga’s Story

    Alga blog little boy 7.7.16 blog version“Alga, you always had your work prepared to bring to class and you took your academic responsibilities very seriously,” says Yolanda Buenafe, early childhood education instructor in Mt. Hood Community College’s Assistant Teacher Career Pathway program. “Your questions were very focused on what you wanted to accomplish.”

    Alganesh Weldeindrias smiles as she listens to her teacher’s praise. Today is her graduation day, and she has earned a certificate from Mt. Hood Community College qualifying her to apply to the Oregon Registry for her Child Development Associate, or CDA. Not only has she completed her certificate program, but Weldeindrias had perfect attendance, attending the program four nights per week for ten months, and earned a 4.0 grade point average. She is now qualified to be an assistant preschool teacher in Oregon.

    Weldeindrias says she loves working with children and is thrilled to make a career of it. “They’re funny and they’re innocent,” she says. “And they make me feel good.”

    The Mt. Hood Community College Assistant Teacher Career Pathway program has operated for two years, with funding from Oregon’s child care division, to support people working with young children move up in their careers.

    Alga certificate 7.7.16 blog versionThe program is a very successful example of how Oregon can diversify and professionalize its early childhood workforce. The state can build up existing human capital in communities by connecting people who work with young children to resources and educational opportunities.

    Students like Weldeindrias and her fellow graduates are an example to Oregon of what can result when the state supports a true pathway to educational achievement in the field of early learning. As the state implements high-quality preschool programs like Preschool Promise, it would do well to increase investments in similar Career Pathway programs around the state. Research shows that high-quality teachers are both well-educated and representative of the students they teach. The Career Pathway program and others like it are sound state investments because they result in high-quality teachers.

    “We give students the opportunity to take college early childhood education classes to earn a certificate that’s part of an early childhood education degree,” says Angelique Kauffman-Rodriguez, Career Pathway Specialist.

    The program also helps students gather hours in the classroom, prepare their portfolios and study for an exam. Successful completion of these elements, in addition to being observed in the classroom, qualifies the students for their CDA. Graduating students who wish to continue their education, like Weldeindrias, are already halfway to an Associate’s degree.

    “We’re developing a next-level program to help students earn their Associate’s degree because of demand from successful students over the past two years,” says Kauffman-Rodriguez.

    In addition to early childhood education courses, the Career Pathway program provides support around college-level learning skills, including writing and studying. Because of the state’s funding, the students also receive scholarships covering the full cost of tuition, textbooks and exam fees. These supports are critical to the program’s success, and this year 11 students completed the program.

    Weldeindrias is thrilled with what she’s learned. “We learn how to guide the children,” she says. “Social emotional, physical, cognitive, how to support the kids.”

    She says that her most useful lesson has been the importance of understanding children’s feelings. “We have to understand their actions, why they do what they do. We have to listen and be at their level.”

    This is a lesson that Weldeindrias has even put to use at home, with her own three sons.

    Alga and husband 7.7.16 blog version“I used to use a lot of time out for my kids, but it’s not helpful,” she says. But now when they fight or act out, she has a conversation with them about what is really bothering them. “If they have a problem, we solve the problem.”

    Roni Pham, professional development specialist at the Oregon Department of Education’s Early Learning Division, spoke at the graduation ceremony to share this vision. “I’m really glad that the Early Learning Division had an opportunity to provide funding for this,” she said to the graduates. “You did exactly what we knew you would do. This is what we said this program was capable of producing.”

    After the graduation ceremony, Weldeindrias posed for photos with her classmates, her family and with Earl Boyles Elementary preschool teacher Katie Wiegel, whose classroom she has volunteered in for the past two years.

    “I like Earl Boyles,” Weldeindrias says. “It’s where my kids are. I would love to work there!” She has applied for an open assistant teacher role for the fall.

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  • Eager Learners: Earl Boyles Serves Infants and Toddlers in Play and Learn Program

    “Put your shaker on your nose, on your nose!” A dozen parents and caregivers, gathered in a classroom at Earl Boyles Elementary in southeast Portland, sing along together, encouraging their children to touch their egg-shaped shaker-instruments to their noses. Many of the toddlers are engaged in the activity, while babies listen and watch their parents perform the action with fascination.

    A room full of infants, toddlers and parents at an elementary school may seem unusual, but it’s the new normal at Earl Boyles, a site of the Early Works initiative. Early Works partners at Earl Boyles have previously launched a preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and are now turning their attention to providing programs for families with even younger children. The group has gathered weekly all spring to play and learn together with the guidance of facilitators. More than 30 children have participated.

    Research shows that the first three years of life are a critical window of development. Reaching families early with services and support puts children on track for school and life success.

    group photoHigh-quality play and learn groups are a proven strategy to do just that. The play and learn group at Earl Boyles follows evidence-based quality practices by offering fun educational activities that can be done at home, ideas for transforming everyday activities into learning opportunities, and guidance around early childhood developmental milestones.

    The facilitators – Early Works site liaison Andreina Velasco, play and learn program consultant Ginger Fink, and Earl Boyles parent Macy Kuang – launched their group to provide all these tools to families with children birth to age 3.

    Moreover, the group serves to welcome young families into the school, tying directly to Early Works’ goal for the school to be a community hub for all families.

    “Our goal was to make families very comfortable… and build relationships,” Fink adds. “We want families to be so comfortable at school it’s like a second living room.”

    Ultimately, building relationships with families beginning when a child is very young makes the transition to kindergarten easy and seamless. For children, the school environment is familiar and for families, trust in the school has been established. For teachers, a child’s developmental progress is already known and any necessary support can already be in place.

    A number of key factors were built into the plan for the group to ensure its success.

    For example, an important consideration for the facilitators in planning the Earl Boyles play and learn group was ensuring it was culturally appropriate for families in the community. To this end, all of the group’s activities are conducted in three languages – English, Spanish and Chinese. The involvement of Kuang, a Chinese parent, is a critical component of expanding the group’s cultural relevance.

    Baby Leo web“Having Macy as the co-facilitator is a really great way for us to build our capacity and cultural knowledge of the Chinese speaking families in our community,” says Velasco.

    Kuang says that in addition to helping facilitate, she wanted to be involved for her 2-year-old daughter. “I want her in the play and learn group so she can learn English, she can learn Spanish, and also learn Chinese.”

    Research shows that language development happens at an explosive pace during a child’s first three years. The group’s trilingual approach takes advantage of this developmental window, allowing participating children to hear sounds and learn words in multiple languages.

    Another consideration was including the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, or ASQ, as part of the program. The ASQ is a developmental screening tool for young children. It is easy for parents and caregivers to use to determine whether their child is on track developmentally as well as to identify and address any delays or gaps as early as possible. The screenings are available for parents to conduct while they play with their child.

    “It’s really neat because it’s really valid. You see it happening,” says Fink. “If a question asks, can your child stack blocks, go play with the blocks and you’ll know.”

    Because of the variety of partnerships Earl Boyles has formed with service providers in the community, the play and learn group has a mechanism in place to refer families to services and support programs if they have concerns or detect delays.

    The program’s impact is easy to see when you attend. “Every week there’s a success story,” says Fink. “By pointing out to families that there’s a marker of development, or something exciting is happening with a baby, or all of a sudden a child who wasn’t saying any words three weeks ago babbles away. For us, that’s remarkable stuff.”

    The families, too, feel that the program has had impact.

    Bulla Chong Kainoa brought his son to the group to help him prepare for preschool in the fall. “I like that they teach my son gross motor skills and he’s able to learn how to be with his peers. I like how attentive the teachers are and you can tell that they care about the children.”

    Candice Beard’s 2-year-old daughter spends much of her time at home socializing with her older brother who is four-and-a-half. “This group gives her a lot of exposure to babies who are her age and socialization with younger kids than she usually plays with,” she says.

    At the end of May, Earl Boyles hosted its youngest graduation celebration yet for 12 infants and toddlers. Each family received a certificate and a gift bag full of activities and books. But the children’s favorite gift was balloons, which immediately captured their attention. As each family came up front to be honored, Velasco shared the developmental milestones that their children achieved during the program.

    Plans are underway for next year, and the facilitators are working to ensure the program at Earl Boyles is sustainably run and funded. They also have advice for other schools or communities interested in launching a play and learn group to reach young families.

    Velasco emphasizes how important it is to leverage talent already in the community by including a parent co-facilitator. “It builds cultural and linguistic capacity and it’s really wonderful to have an inclusive, intercultural space,” she says.

    “Gather your energy, look for resources, find yourself some colleagues out there and start your own program,” says Fink. She recommends the National Women’s Law Center as a fantastic resource.

    Elsa and son webHigh-quality play and learn programs like this one are an effective way to build relationships between schools and families, provide parents with skills and ideas for teaching their children, and improve children’s kindergarten readiness and school success.

    As Elsa San Juan, who participated with her 1-year-old son, puts it, “It is more than a game for kids, it is for a child’s learning so that they can strengthen and grow.”

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  • Creating an enviable life for all kids: A Q&A with Nancy Anderson, retiring early intervention and special education leader

    south shoreNancy Anderson, who leads Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education services in Multnomah, Hood River, and Wasco counties, is retiring after 40 years helping children achieve success. Although Anderson holds titles with both the Multnomah Early Childhood Program and the David Douglas School District, her work has spanned much more than these titles alone suggest. She is admired statewide for her leadership around professional development, has been an integral thought partner for educators and administrators, and has played a key role in the creation and success of the Early Works initiative at Earl Boyles Elementary. There she helped create a preschool that was funded by multiple agencies, including MECP.

    The Children’s Institute is grateful to Nancy Anderson for her years of public service, dedicated to improving all children’s lives. “Nancy was fundamental in launching the Earl Boyles preschool program and in advocating for full inclusion of children with special needs in a universal preschool setting” says Swati Adarkar, President and CEO of Children’s Institute. “Nancy has been a key partner, not just for the Children’s Institute and Early Works, but across the state. She has pushed everyone to innovate, and has fought hard to improve the odds for all Oregon kids.”

    “Nancy has been a leader in EI/ECSE since the very early beginnings of this statewide program,” says Anderson’s colleague Judy Newman, the Co-Director of Early Childhood CARES and a member of the governance consortium for Lane County’s early learning hub, the Lane Early Alliance. “She is a critical thinker and innovator, always striving to stay improve services and supports based on the current evidence in the field. She asks important questions and challenges us all to constantly evaluate what we are doing and to grow and change as needed.”

    We talked with Anderson about her career, the current state of early intervention in Oregon, and what policymakers can do to ensure all kids have an equal shot at success.

    CI: Why is the interplay between early intervention and early childhood education so important? For example, why should preschool teachers in public settings be dually accredited in special education and preschool?

    NA: When I think about early childhood or our K-12 systems, kids come to us from wherever they are – there is a lot of diversity. If you have a group of 20 kids, 17% of them have a delay or disability, and/or are dual language learners and/or have experienced trauma. So what do staff need to do be able to deal with that? Teachers need to know enough in each area to be able to [address the diversity of issues]. That is where the importance of dual accreditation comes from – if the teacher has no background in knowing what to do with students with special needs, having a special education specialist come in once a week isn’t going to make a big difference. For kids with disabilities, inclusion early in school sets the stage for inclusion later and leads to greater success for graduation rates and career success.

    CI: What has been your role in Early Works and the preschool at Earl Boyles?

    NA: Years ago we first sat down with Swati Adarkar and a group of partners from around the county, asking what do we need and where should we do it? We decided to move forward with a preschool in the David Douglas School District. The Community Needs Assessment for the area showed that, out of all the things, the community really needed access to preschool. So we thought: If we built a preschool model what would it look like? We wanted the preschool to service all the kids in the catchment area, so we could impact the trajectory of kids prenatal to age 3 [P-3], and into the K-12 system. We worked to include kids in Head Start and Early Childhood Special Education. All of the detail work to get the preschool started was really complicated, hard work. You really have to have people who want to figure it out and who are willing to do hard work. But does it need to be done? Yes.

    CI: Tell us about your statewide leadership around professional development.

    NA: Last year, [Former] David Douglas Superintendent Don Grotting and I went to the Oregon Department of Education to offer a summer institute for professional development that would be open to anyone in the state. We created the institute in partnership with the Early Learning Division, Oregon Department of Education- Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education and the David Douglas School District.  It was phenomenal. It was so popular that the department wanted to do it again this year, and extend it to an entire week. This year’s institute is offering seven courses on topics like coaching, dual language learners, and positive social emotional development. Educators from all sorts settings attend – child care,K-3rd general education, community preschool, Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education, and Head Start.

    We learned people are really hungry for P-3 professional development and learning – and for something that isn’t just a day long.

    CI: What are you most proud of having accomplished in your career?

    NA: There isn’t any one project or initiative. It is probably more that I’ve always tried to ensure that kids and families have a shot at a full life – both at school and in their community. My focus has always been on making sure kids and families have what they need to be successful and have an enviable life. And think I’ve been pretty successful in making that happen!

    CI: What drives you to push innovation at both the state and district levels? How have you gotten partners, teachers, parents, others, to buy in to early childhood investments?

    NA: One of the things that makes a difference is to share some different experiences with them – show them what is positive and possible. People come to their work with certain experiences or lenses – and sometimes just don’t know what is possible! One of my biggest jobs as a leader is to really make sure I am bringing forward those stories and experiences of the partners and families we are working with to support their hopes and dreams.

    For example, when talking to a parent of a young child with Down syndrome, they may have a dream of their child attending college. However, people in their life may be telling them it’s not possible. I might say ‘Oh! I hear you thinking about your child attending college in the future. Do you know that Northwest Down Syndrome Association is working with local colleges on a program called “Think College” which ensures students have access to college? It ispossible!' You have to kind of change the conversation.

    And that is what Early Works has been about – showing people that it is really possible. At Earl Boyles, parent engagement has changed and they are getting great outcomes. It is important to share these stories and also share the data that shows things work. Once you put vision and outcomes together it is hard to say no.

    CI: What is the number one thing parents and teachers could do to help more students succeed?

    NA: For staff, kids, and families, the recognition that “this isn’t it.” There is always more to do. Things can be better. And when we bring people on board who understand that, we can always do even more.

    CI: What is the top thing policymakers could do to help more students succeed?

    NA: To ensure that whatever policies are being made to ensure kids have that best start – that it includes all kids. That when we say “all” and “every” that we really do mean “all.”

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  • Family Resource Navigator at Earl Boyles is model for schools

    "I brought some pictures," Josette Herrera says, handing her cell phone to Josué Peña-Juárez. He grimaces as he looks at the black mold that just keeps coming back around the windows in Herrera's apartment. The two have talked about it before, but Herrera has had trouble getting her landlord to address the problem.

    "I'm worried about my kids," Herrera says. One of her sons had pneumonia this year and she fears the mold is impacting her family's health.

    As the new Family Resource Navigator at Earl Boyles Elementary School, Peña-Juárez has many meetings like this – with families who need advice, support, or access to a wide variety of services. From housing support to counseling, from legal help to clothing and food, Peña-Juárez helps families find whatever it is they need. "I never say, 'you can't ask me about that,'"; he says.

    The Family Resource Navigator position, which Peña-Juárez was hired to fill in November, is the only position of its kind at a public school in Multnomah County. Funded by the county and staffed by SUN (which is operated at Earl Boyles by Metropolitan Family Service), the Family Resource Navigator role is an innovative demonstration of what can happen when an elementary school also serves as a neighborhood hub. The role was created as part of the Early Works initiative at Earl Boyles because academic success for young children is dependent on a wide variety of factors that go well beyond what schools traditionally support.

    "The family and community contexts are incredibly important to ensure kids reach academic benchmarks," says Dana Hepper, Children's Institute's Director of Policy and Program. "We worked with our partners to pilot the Family Resource Navigator role because integrating health and family support with education is so much more effective than having three separate siloes."

    Peña-Juárez has been on the job for just three months, but the impact is clear already. "Folks are coming forward and saying, 'I need this support,'" he says. "That means that they already trust. They understand that someone is here and responsive."

    As a parent at the school, Herrera is very glad that Peña-Juárez is there. After a previous meeting with him, she went to a local workshop and learned about how to document her mold problem and submit the documentation to her landlord. This time around, she and Peña-Juárez discuss drafting a letter and going to the post office together to send it using certified mail.

    "There are a lot of resources out there that a lot of people don't know [about]," Herrera says. The workshop to empower renters is just one example.

    Peña-Juárez's goal is not just to help Earl Boyles families in need. "I want more families to be engaged with the school," he says.

    He sees that many parents have ideas and strengths to share, and trust and communication are key to tapping these strengths.

    Earl Boyles SUN Site Manager Youn Han is Peña-Juárez's supervisor. "He's been able to provide a lot of capacity around family stabilization," she says. "He does intensive work and builds meaningful connections with families."

    Everyone involved is hopeful that other schools in other communities will learn from the demonstration. The Children's Institute is working closely with Peña-Juárez to track how he spends his time and how his work complements and builds on other Early Works strategies.

    This gives us information we can share with others around the state at multiple levels. We are not just learning what a Family Resource Navigator position looks like on the ground; we are also evaluating what impact this strategy has in driving towards key Early Works outcomes.

    "I hope that eventually there will be a team of [Family Resource Navigators] at other school sites so that we would meet and coordinate our resources," he says.

    He also hopes to train people within the community to take over the role in the long-term. "They're from here. They've invested time and energy in the community. We can support them in getting some skills and then have them in positions like this one," Peña-Juárez says.

    Josue enewsPeña-Juárez's most important advice for other schools looking to create a Family Resource Navigator position is to hire someone who can speak the language and understand the culture of the families in the community. At Earl Boyles, where a large number of families speak Spanish at home, Peña-Juárez's bilingual skills and cultural background are critical.

    Han agrees that it's very important to hire the right person. "The Family Resource Navigator position is really dependent on families trusting that person," she says. "Choose someone trustworthy, a good communicator, and preferably someone who is already familiar with or part of the community."

    Herrera also agrees. "Having [Peña-Juárez] here has helped a lot, especially him being bilingual," she says. "He understands and he's not judgmental."

    Both Peña-Juárez and Han emphasized that the role must be part of a larger school culture that is open and compassionate.

    "Earl Boyles is such a great school because everyone from the administration and principal to the teachers and staff supports making communication as open as possible," Han says.

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  • Connecting with the community: Earl Boyles hires parents as preschool assistants

    “It’s playing, my whole day is playing. That’s what it feels like to me,” says preschool assistant Andrea Lopez Thorsnes. She’s smiling from ear to ear. Moments before, she was in a preschool classroom at southeast Portland’s Earl Boyles Elementary School, site of the Early Works initiative. Since September, Lopez Thorsnes has worked there as an assistant teacher. She is an Earl Boyles parent and one of three long-time community members who were hired to be preschool assistants this fall.

    Meri Cullins is also an Earl Boyles parent and new preschool assistant. She finds it very fulfilling work, to play with the students and see them learn new things each day. “I love watching something click, when they know it and they own it,” Cullins says.

    What looks and feels like play for Cullins and Lopez Thorsnes means much more for the children they work with. All day long they guide and support them as they learn, grow and try new things.

    ALT-slide-webFor example, during recess time Lopez Thorsnes interacted with a little boy who wanted to play on the slide. He touched the slide, then looked up at her and said, “It’s hot!”

    Lopez Thorsnes felt the slide too. “It is a little warm from the sun,” she said. “Shall we try it together?”

    The little boy nodded. They slid down together. A few minutes later, he was happily sliding on his own.

    Hiring for positions like the preschool assistant from within the community helps the Earl Boyles teaching staff better reflect the student and neighborhood population. It’s also one way that the school supports families. Along with building a partnership to provide preschool for 90 three- and four-year-olds in the school's catchment area, the Early Works initiative has helped Earl Boyles successfully take on a range of challenges and changes to become a more welcoming environment that really helps children and families succeed. This includes a very active parent bilingual parent group, a lending library open to families of all ages, and including parent leaders in strategy and decision-making groups.

    Hiring, supporting, and adequately compensating an early learning workforce that reflects the culture and community of the children enrolled in preschool is a statewide and national challenge. Earl Boyles and Early Works leaders have started to tackle this problem head on because they know it is vital in creating the highest quality learning environment for children and families.

     “Having parents as part of the teaching team is invaluable,” says Andreina Velasco, the Children’s Institute’s Early Works Site Liaison at Earl Boyles. “Parents bring the perspective of families into their classroom teaching practice, including their use of students’ home language and connections with the neighborhood and other family members. At the school and district levels, they are powerful role models of how family and community engagement can change the staff and culture to more accurately reflect the student body.”

    MC-beanbags-webCullins, Earl Boyles parent and new preschool assistant, adds: “For the neighborhood, school jobs mean economic stability and social mobility, which ultimately make it a better place for students and families”

    Cullins grew up in the area, and specifically chose the Earl Boyles catchment area as where she wanted to live and raise her kids. She was drawn to “the passion the teachers have and everything Earl Boyles does to support the community,” she says. “Not just the kids, but the whole family unit.” Her youngest son is three and attends the Earl Boyles preschool.

    The preschool assistants are learning through their training and work with the teachers about how to help children take ownership over their actions. Rather than commanding, the teachers and assistants help guide children to identify what they should be doing and self-correct. It’s about giving the student the power to make his or her own choice. “It takes a lot longer,” Cullins says. “But it’s important to take the time for the child to realize something for himself.”

    Cullins also says that these techniques have come in handy at home with her preschool-aged son. “He is full of energy and impulsive, so talking about choices and giving him choices really works,” she says. “Preschool is also helping him because he sees the expectations are the same for him across the board.”

    The preschool teachers at Earl Boyles are thrilled to have such great support from the new assistants. Preschool teacher Natalie Stemler says she has never before had the quality of support she has now at Earl Boyles in her eleven years of teaching preschool. She says her assistants “independently run small groups, redirect behavior during large group time, and demonstrate the confidence and ability to run the classroom.”

    Stemler says Cullins, who works in her classroom, “demonstrates a strong set of skills to work with children with special needs, which is essential to the functioning of our classroom.”

    Early Works and Earl Boyles will continue the efforts to engage and support families to succeed. With partners at Metropolitan Family Service’s SUN program and funding from Multnomah County, the school has recently hired a family resource navigator to help families in the school's catchment area identify and access the social service and other resources they need. At the same time, the partners will continue to expand programming for families and children of all ages in Earl Boyles’ neighborhood center.

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  • Report highlights David Douglas district’s success with dual language learners

    Voice-For-All.New-America-cover“David Douglas is dreaming big – and implementing well – when it comes to helping dual language learners succeed.”

    So says a new report from the New America Foundation’s Dual Language Learner National Work Group that is all about lifting up lessons learned at the David Douglas School District in southeast Portland.

    The number of students who speak a language other than English at home – or dual language learners – in districts across the country is increasing rapidly, prompting the need for new and better models to serve these students. In the David Douglas School District, where students speak more than 70 different languages, this need was especially pronounced. The district developed and implemented a unique instructional model – instead of pulling dual language learners out of class to work on English-language skills, the district’s model, called English Language Development, ensures that all students, dual language learners or not, receive 30 minutes of English language instruction each day.

    The model has been extremely successful. In fact, last year David Douglas was one of only eight districts in Oregon to meet state and federal expectations for dual language learners’ progress and proficiency in language development.

    Conor P. Williams, director of the Dual Language Learner National Work Group and one of the report’s authors, says New America chose to write about David Douglas because it wanted to share a model from a district successfully serving a multi-lingual population.

    Maria Adams is the language development specialist at Earl Boyles, a David Douglas elementary school featured in the report and one of the sites of the Early Works initiative. She explains how the district arrived at its dual language learner – or DLL – model.

    “There were too many different languages spoken here to do the usual DLL model of pulling kids out of class,” she says. “Our option was to teach all students the language skills they need to be successful socially and academically.”

    Williams says that what David Douglas and Earl Boyles can teach other education leaders goes beyond a good model or well-thought-out strategies.

    “They’re not just exploring lots of different ways to help these kids; they’re extraordinary implementers,” he says. “They’re trying to do things that are a challenge for teachers. Not impossible, but large enough to really have impact for the kids.”

    This impact is clear to Earl Boyles principal Ericka Guynes, who oversees the implementation of the English Language Development model at her school. Earl Boyles also has preschool for three- and four-year-olds and a robust family engagement strategy through the Early Works initiative, adding to the impact. “Kids in kindergarten are coming in at higher levels of language skill because of early vocabulary exposure,” she says. “Even non-dual language learners are increasing their entering language level.”

    Last week, Guynes and Adams traveled to Minnesota with the Children’s Institute’s Early Works Site Liaison Andreina Velasco to share their strategies at a meeting of the Dual Language Learner National Work Group. Specifically, they shared how effective the David Douglas model has been because it mainstreams language development.

    “It’s something that all of our students need, even the small percentage that don’t fall into the dual language learner or poverty categories,” says Adams.

    An important lesson of the Early Works initiative at Earl Boyles has been the impact that preschool and engaging early with families have for dual language learners.

    “It’s the instruction and the family engagement components together,” says Velasco. “Especially if the family speaks a language other than English, we can meet them where they’re at from the beginning.”

    Check out the report to learn more about the David Douglas model, its implementation at Earl Boyles, and the lessons for other school districts grappling with how best to serve dual language learners. You can also take a look at EdWeek’s coverage of the report and two others published alongside it about serving dual language learners in San Antonio and Washington, D.C.

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  • A Voice For All

    Voice-For-All.New-America-cover For nearly two decades, the number of dual language learners – students who speak a language other than English at home – enrolled in Oregon schools has steadily increased, now to more than ten percent of all Oregon students. State leaders are working on a plan to ensure those students gain the language and academic skills they need to graduate from high school and go on to college and career success.

    A new report from New America's Dual Language Learner National Work Group suggests Oregon leaders have a great model for success right in their own backyard – at Portland's David Douglas School District. The New America report highlights the great work that David Douglas district schools are doing with dual language learners, work based on a model of ensuring that dual language students learn alongside their peers instead of being pulled out of class.

    The New America Foundation's report also features David Douglas' Earl Boyles Elementary School, one of the sites of the Early Works initiative, as a snapshot of the model in action. At Earl Boyles, the program is coupled with early childhood education and family engagement strategies to support all children, including dual language learners, to develop the language skills they need socially and academically before kindergarten.

    Read report

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  • Feds to study successes at Earl Boyles, Early Works

    low 2014-09-12 011Earl Boyles Elementary, home to the Early Works initiative for the past four years, will be one of five sites in the nation that federal researchers will be studying to learn more about how schools are successfully sustaining the positive effects of preschool through third grade.

    Representatives with the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services informed David Douglas School District and Early Works leaders of the study in a letter to them earlier this month. “We are interested in learning more about the Early Works Initiative at Earl Boyles School and how it incorporates PK-3 alignment strategies, family supports and technology as support strategies through grade 3,” the federal officials wrote. “We also want to better understand the theoretical or practical background of the program, how it is implemented, how it is sustained and resourced, and the program’s outcomes.”

    The Early Works initiative – with sites at Earl Boyles and in Yoncalla – focuses on implementing effective early childhood services that are integrated and aligned with elementary schools. Its goal is to bring parents, educators and the community together to help ensure students are ready for kindergarten and for success in third grade and beyond.

    The work has brought positive results for Earl Boyles students, in the school’s preschool and its early grades.

    “"Hopefully, what this study does is confirm the results and the benefits that we're seeing at Earl Boyles," says David Douglas Superintendent Don Grotting. "We know we’ve got to get to these kids when they're young, to lift them up and eliminate the achievement gap before it has a chance to open. We think the benefits of early childhood education ripple all the way through K-12, diminishing the need to intervene with kids after it's almost too late.

    "If studies like this can really show those benefits, it might just loosen up more funding on the state and federal level to expand early learning, especially for families in poverty and the underserved."

    Earl Boyles Elementary Principal Ericka Guynes says she and the school’s staff are honored Earl Boyles was selected for the study. She adds: “My hope is that the study will identify practices that eliminate barriers for our youngest learners and families so all students can reach their highest potential for learning.”

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  • Earl Boyles parent represents community at national family engagement conference

    Andreina-AdrianaEarl Boyles Elementary School parent Adriana Govea had never been on an airplane before last week. But on June 22, she and Andreina Velasco, the Children’s Institute’s Early Works site liaison at Earl Boyles, boarded a plane to Chicago for the Institute for Educational Leadership’s 2015 National Family and Community Engagement Conference, “Shaping Our Future by Leading Together.”

    Adriana readily faced her trepidation about her first flight – and soon learned that flying was kind of fun – in order to represent the Earl Boyles community at the institute’s second annual conference, which brought together 1,200 participants from all sectors of the educational community to talk about the importance of family engagement in children’s learning. Adriana, a member and former co-facilitator of Parents United, an Earl Boyles parents group, plays an active role in the parent engagement activities happening at Earl Boyles, including planning for the school’s neighborhood center. Adriana’s son, Matthew, just finished third grade at Earl Boyles.

    But Adriana and Andreina were not just conference attendees. They were also asked to conduct a workshop, “From Showing Up to Leading the Way: Building a Continuum for Family Engagement.” The workshop was an important opportunity for them and for the Children’s Institute to share some lessons learned from the Early Works initiative at Earl Boyles with a group of national experts. It also gave Andreina and Adriana a chance to learn from the other communities that are part of the growing national movement for family engagement.

    The presentation highlighted the array of possible family engagement activities and programs – from attendance to parent leadership – and helped to start a discussion about how others are undertaking similar work.  Although Adriana started off her presentation a bit shy, by the end she said she felt secure and confident. “I feel very important because I am someone who hasn’t been to college, and I am here speaking to all of these people who have,” she says.

    Andreina Velasco says she was “blown away” by the conference. “It was the best conference I have ever been to,” she says.

    She says a standout moment was a speech by parent Rosazlia Grillier, co-chair of POWER-PAC, a parent-led cross-cultural organization of low-income parents from Chicago. “Rosazlia is a testament to what can happen when parents are organized,” Andreina says.

    Rosazilia demonstrated that the most authentic way to build success is by having families interact with families, Andreina says. The point was underscored by Ralph Smith, senior vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, an initiative working to ensure more children in low-income families are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Smith emphasized that schools must set up opportunities to get out of the way – to create spaces and processes that give parents the opportunity to lead and succeed.

    Adriana says she has similar opinions about why it is important to give parents a voice – and why she feels thankful to be a part of the parent engagement work at Earl Boyles. “It is very important to demonstrate the power of the parents, and also important that the schools - or whoever is in charge of the system - aren’t judging parents but helping and supporting them,” she says. “It is important that they see the love that parents have for their children, and that we all leave fear behind for the love of our kids, so that anything is possible.”

    Adriana and Andreina both believe that schools must encourage the vital partnership between schools and parents in children’s education.

    Adriana’s enthusiasm for professional development around family engagement has only increased since the conference, and her new ambition is to make sure more Earl Boyles parents have the opportunity to participate in family engagement conferences and programs in the future. “They have the potential,” she says. “I would like to share more, and give them the opportunity.”

    And so, of course, would the Children’s Institute.

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  • Earl Boyles Elementary wins support from Multnomah County

    commissioner-site-visit2The Early Works initiative and the community around Earl Boyles Elementary School had a big victory this week – one that will lead to more comprehensive services for children and families in the larger community around the school in Southeast Portland.

    On June 18, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners passed a budget that included $94,000 for the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods program at Earl Boyles. As part of its involvement in the Early Works initiative, the school already has added a new early learning wing and neighborhood center; the new services will be delivered at the neighborhood center.

    Specifically, the SUN program will use the funding to help families access housing programs and work with a family navigator to understand and access public services available to them. Those two resources were prioritized by community leaders from a list of services community members had indicated in a home-to-home survey they would like to see provided at the neighborhood center.

    “This money will help us really reach our families at the level they need to be reached at,” said Earl Boyles SUN site manager Meghan Zook, who attended the June 18 hearing and who said she was tremendously excited about the new reach her program would now have at Earl Boyles. “It will really allow us to focus on community needs.” Families in the Earl Boyles catchment area have high rates of poverty, with 85 percent of students at the school eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

    The expanded SUN program was one of several that the Multnomah County commissioners agreed to fund as part of the broader county budget. The commissioners emphasized their intention was to fund programs that reach the most vulnerable citizens in the county.

    In fact, as part of the Early Works initiative, the neighborhood center work has the potential to have impact well beyond Earl Boyles and even Multnomah County. By assessing the Early Works project through an on-going evaluation and then sharing lessons learned through a strategic communication plan, leaders involved in the Early Works initiative aim to help others learn from their effort.

    “This initiative is an effort to empower the community and to help improve health and outcomes for children and families through a dual generation approach,” said Swati Adarkar, President and CEO of the Children’s Institute, which helped to initiate the Early Works project. “We’re thrilled that the Multnomah County commissioners are partnering with the Early Works initiative to help serve children and families and to support children to achieve success in school and beyond.”

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  • How Four Oregon Communities Tackle Summer Learning Loss

    Happy National Summer Learning Day! June 19th is the National Summer Learning Association’s official kick-off of a summer full of learning and fun for children.

    Programs are taking place across the country and Oregon is no exception. For example, Building Healthy Families, a nonprofit based in Enterprise, recently hosted a summer learning fair with educational activities for kids and resources for parents to engage their kids all summer long.

    The resources for families are the most important part, according to Maria Weer, Building Healthy Families’ executive director. “It makes it easy for families to commit to turn off the TV and go do something fun,” she says.

    The National Summer Learning Association hosts Summer Learning Day to build awareness about how summer learning loss widens the achievement gap and how to fight it. This year the organization created a national map of hundreds of activities going on around the country.

    Research shows that low-income students lose skills in math and reading each summer. In the fall, they return to school having fallen behind their peers who had access to camps, family vacations and other learning-rich activities during the summer. These losses are cumulative – year after year, the achievement gap grows.

    “I was a teacher, and it’s clear which kids are actively engaging their minds over the summer,” says Weer. “It’s so important to spread the word about summer activities.”

    Summer learning opportunities that are accessible for all children are the best way to combat this loss. That’s why the NSLA is recognizing these activities on its map. So far, 634 activities are listed and organizations around the country have pledged to serve more than 680,000 children.

    GLR-OR-mapSummer learning is also one of the key strategies of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The campaign is a national collaboration of communities focused on helping children stay on track for reading success by third grade. There are four member communities in Oregon, including the Early Works sites at Earl Boyles Elementary in Portland and Yoncalla Elementary in Yoncalla. All four communities have learning activities planned for the summer. Here’s what’s going on:

     

    Lane County

    • Kids in Transition to Kindergarten – The Kids in Transition to Kindergarten program is 16 weeks of school readiness activities for incoming kindergartners during the summer and fall. It also includes workshops for their parents and caregivers.
    • Summer Reading Spots – All summer long, volunteers organized by the United Way of Lane County will lead storytime at sites around the county. Storytimes immediately follow Food for Lane County’s Summer Lunch Program and all kids who attend will receive a book to take home.
    • Little Free Libraries – Ten new Little Free Libraries will be installed throughout the county in areas without access to a public library.

    Wallowa County

    • Summer Learning Fair – This week, Building Healthy Families and its partners hosted a fair to encourage summer learning. Activities for kids included making Lego cars move with rubber bands and creating works of art with solar art paper.
    • Event Sharing – The fair also had information for families about a host of other activities happening all summer long. Families that take a photo when they take part in a summer learning activity can bring it to Building Healthy Families to receive a prize.

    Earl Boyles Elementary

    • Kindergarten Counts – Kindergarten Counts is a two-week transition to school program for incoming kindergartners and their parents and caregivers.
    • Summer SUN – Operated at Earl Boyles by Metropolitan Family Service, the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods program this summer includes a four-week academic and sports camp as well as the Book Worm reading club, a four-week intensive reading skills camp. The Book Worm reading club is offered in partnership with Reading Results, SMART, and the Children's Book Bank.

    Yoncalla Elementary

    • Early Kindergarten Transition program – For the first time, Yoncalla Elementary school is offering a two-week program for incoming kindergartners and their parents and caregivers. The program is modeled on Multnomah County’s Kindergarten Counts program.
    • Summer Reading – The Yoncalla Library is hosted a superhero-themed summer reading program.

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  • Earl Boyles expands home visiting with school-wide training

    home-visit-6.15 
     Kim Kalapus Graham and Linda Long, Earl Boyles teachers, take part in a group discussion about what schools can do to engage families that also supports academic success for students.

    Carrie Rose, executive director of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, said just one thing Wednesday to get a cafeteria full of elementary school teachers and staff members at southeast Portland’s Earl Boyles Elementary School nodding in agreement: “Home visiting really grounds you in why you became a teacher to begin with.”

    Everyone in the room was hooked from that moment. After all, they work with kids because they care about them. Home visiting is an effective strategy that helps teachers and families support children to succeed in school – and life.

    Along with her colleague, founder of the project and mother of six Yesenia Gonzalez, Rose co-conducted the teacher home visit training session at Earl Boyles Wednesday. Forty-five teachers and other school staff members from schools throughout the district attended. After Multnomah County brought the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project to Oregon to train 150 of the county’s kindergarten teachers last month, the Children’s Institute helped Earl Boyles Principal Ericka Guynes bring the trainers back as part of the Early Works initiative. Family engagement has been a key strategy from the beginning. Earl Boyles kindergarten teachers have been conducting home visits for three years, and preschool teachers for two years through our partnership with Mt. Hood Community College Head Start.  Wednesday’s training will allow teachers and staff at all grade levels to conduct home visits.

    People who work in early childhood are familiar with home visiting, which began as an evidence-based strategy focused on very young children and their families from birth to three, as well as expecting parents. Home visitors support families who qualify and volunteer for the services to develop parenting skills and access resources.

    More recently, this common and effective practice in early childhood is gaining steam in K-12 education. Teacher home visiting has been shown to be effective as a strategy for increasing K-12 student success and building relationships with families.

    The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, based out of Sacramento, California, has developed an effective, replicable and inexpensive model for K-12 schools to take on home visiting. The project provides training for teachers that walks them step-by-step through the model, spends time focused on barriers they may encounter in meeting with families and helps address possible fears and anxieties.

    The model developed by the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project includes two home visits for each family that chooses to participate, and teachers and staff visit homes in pairs. During the first home visit, the teachers bring nothing with them.

    “The first visit is all about building relationships, to start building trust and to share hopes and dreams,” says Gonzalez, training coordinator and a parent founder of the project, in a recent interview with Calvin Dorsey, creator of the Schoolproof Network training program that focuses on community collaboration.

    During the second visit, parents and teachers discuss academic progress and work together to set goals and come up with strategies tailored to the student’s needs and strengths.

    Rose says in the Schoolproof Network interview that family engagement is most effective when it’s relational, builds capacity of both teachers and parents, and links back to learning. “Home visits are all three,” she says.

    Schools that conduct home visits see excellent results, including increased student academic success, improved student attendance and behavior, and increased family involvement with the school.

    Guynes says it was important to her that Earl Boyles teachers at all grade levels had the opportunity to participate in the training. “You work with parents, no matter the child’s age,” she says. “We want to effectively engage them as partners.”

    While Earl Boyles’ three kindergarten teachers have been conducting home visits with incoming students for the past three years, home visiting is new to teachers in other grades. Guynes is excited to open up the opportunity to all her teachers, who have expressed a lot of interest. She recently conducted a year-end survey of her teachers and found that 96 percent want to better engage families as partners in their children’s education.

    Overall, Guynes says, she was excited for the Children’s Institute to bring the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project to Earl Boyles because she believes in the impact home visits have for teachers and their practice. “Instead of making assumptions about children, you can discover the reasons for their actions at school – good or bad. You learn how each child is unique.”

    Home visiting has already had an impact at the kindergarten level at Earl Boyles. Kindergarten teacher Cynthia Casteel has conducted many home visits over the past three years. “The most positive impact is the students’ comfort level when arriving to school on the first day,” Casteel says. Students shed fewer tears and parents have less anxiety when a relationship has already been built.

    Before attending the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project training, Casteel had not been formally trained. She was eager to attend and refine her approach. Her biggest takeaway? New ways to help more families feel comfortable with the idea of a home visit. Home visiting is entirely voluntary for both teachers and families. “But the trainers showed ways to encourage and reassure families about our intentions with a home visit,” Casteel says. She says she looks forward to putting the new strategies to use in the fall of this year, Casteel says.

    Preschool assistant and bus monitor Tina Kiang says she was thrilled to take part in the training Wednesday, even though she isn’t a classroom teacher. “I think this could be great for my relationship with families too,” she says. “I pick kids up and drive them home, and I need to build trust with them.”

    Next year, the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project model will be put in action across all grade levels at Earl Boyles. For the first time, it won’t be just incoming kindergartners and preschoolers who get to welcome their teachers into their homes. Guynes has put together a combination of Title I federal funding and district-funded parent communication workdays to ensure teachers have the time and support needed to conduct visits.

    “I’m really hoping to see better understanding for teachers and families in how to best support each other,” she says.

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  • Parents ask Multnomah County to help fund programs for children and families at Earl Boyles Elementary

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    Megan Gorecki, Earl Boyles parent, testifies before the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

    They came to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners budget hearing Wednesday night asking for something that was partly about dollars and cents. It was a request for about $95,000 in support from the county to help expand the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods program at Earl Boyles Elementary School in Portland's David Douglas School District.

    But when David Douglas Superintendent Don Grotting and parents with children at Earl Boyles talked about their hopes for the expanded SUN services the money could support, it was about much more than dollars and cents.

    "That $95,000 will have the opportunity to impact over 13,000 students and over 20,000 parents and these are your neediest kids in the county – by coordinating mental health services, education services, workforce development services and other social services that these families need," Grotting told the board, while also thanking the board for support the county has already given the program. "Your money is being put to work well, and it's making a difference in the lives of children and families."

    A speaker who closely followed Grotting said her family was a living testimony to his words.

    "If it wasn't for this program, there are nights my children wouldn't have had food on their plates," said a tearful Megan Gorecki, whose son just finished second grade at Earl Boyles. "If it wasn't for this program, there are days when we wouldn't have power. They gave me the resources to pay my power bill.... If it wasn't for this program, my children and family wouldn't be where they are now. This program means so much to my family."

    The families and leaders from Earl Boyles came together at the hearing to use their individual stories and collective voice to ask for the county's support for coordinated social services that can reach children and families earlier and even more comprehensively than the current SUN program does. With 85 percent of students at Earl Boyles Elementary qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, the school and community has many at-risk students and high levels of poverty.

    The SUN program partners with schools across the county to provide resources to children and families; SUN schools become hubs within their neighborhood, where students and their families can access services that include educational support and parenting classes. At Earl Boyles, a request for an additional $94,265 would help the SUN program expand and provide more comprehensive services.

    Specifically, the increased funding would help families access housing programs and work with family navigators to understand and access public services available to them – two resources which were prioritized by community leaders from a list of many types of services the community would like to see provided in the neighborhood center.

    The parents' testimony and request to Multnomah County for this expanded funding took place in one evening, but it was the product of years of hard work on behalf of many community members and partners who live and work in the neighborhoods surrounding Earl Boyles.

    In 2012, residents of the David Douglas School District made the decision to tax themselves and construct a new early learning wing at Earl Boyles through the passage of a general obligation bond.

    Motivated by the research linking quality early learning experiences to improved education outcomes, the district had become part of an initiative called Early Works, a collaboration of community partners working together to provide early learning services to families before their children reached kindergarten. The new early learning wing, which opened in the fall of the 2014, is the home of this initiative and SUN Schools is a key community partner.

    Since its inception, a community-owned and driven approach has guided the Early Works team. In 2014, using community volunteers, the team conducted a door-to-door data collection effort to learn more about the specific needs of the community. These assessments were collected over a period of weeks in more than a half- dozen languages, and the results showed that community members were especially interested in high-quality early learning programs, parent education classes, and community gathering spaces.

    By providing additional funding for the coordinated social services, Multnomah County can help the Earl Boyles community realize the vision they have for their community and help to reach children with important supports when they need it most, said Grotting.

    The added money, together with the support the county has already given the program, can continue to change lives, Grotting said.

    "You have provided hope and inspiration to not only the children but these families," he said. "You are going to end some generational poverty by providing these children with the education necessary to go out and maneuver in our world."

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  • Preschool Boosts Reading Skills Later

    Class of 2025 OPBIn its Class of 2025 series, this week OPB discusses about the preschool at Earl Boyles Elementary and its positive impact on students.

    "Kids who are in high-quality preschool — particularly low-income kids — are far more likely to graduate from high school,” said Swati Adarkar of the Portland-based Children’s Institute. “They’re far more likely to go on to college, they’re far more likely not to need special education as they go on in the elementary grades. These are all huge game-changers."

    Listen in

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  • Earl Boyles kindergartners shine on Oregon Kindergarten Assessment

    EB-kinder-indicators-4.7.15Recently released results from this year’s Oregon Kindergarten Assessment demonstrate a promising upward trend for kindergartners at Earl Boyles Elementary in Portland’s David Douglas School District. Overall, Earl Boyles’ entering kindergartners outperformed their peers in the David Douglas School District and across the state on most dimensions of the kindergarten assessment. The assessment scores were even higher for students who had attended the Earl Boyles preschool program the year prior to kindergarten entry.

    This year was the second year that the kindergarten assessment was administered statewide, and it has its challenges and critics. It is not a comprehensive measure of all skills that we know children need to thrive, and state leaders, the Children’s Institute and others are working to improve it.

    But the assessment does provide the state and districts a consistent tool to identify entering kindergartners’ skills in specific areas of development that can help predict later academic success. Those areas include: early literacy, early numeracy, interpersonal skills, and self-regulation. Prior to the implementation of the kindergarten assessment, the state did not have a tool that could be used to identify opportunity gaps in children’s exposure to rich early learning experiences. Nor did it have a tool that measured progress over time.

    The results of the kindergarten assessment this year at Earl Boyles indicate that the school’s preschool is showing some initial success in preparing children for kindergarten, one of the intended outcomes of the Children’s Institute’s Early Works initiative.

    And positive results are coming from evaluations beyond the kindergarten assessment. We also are seeing positive findings from the external evaluation of Early Works that Portland State University’s Center for the Improvement of Child and Family Services is conducting. Those findings align with dozens of rigorous studies of other early education programs that show that a year or two of center-based early childhood education for 3- and 4-year-olds – provided in a developmentally appropriate program – improve children’s early language, literacy, and mathematics skills.

    Research shows that access to high-quality preschool is particularly beneficial for low-income children and children of color, who often start kindergarten behind their peers. That was a primary reason the Children’s Institute selected Earl Boyles as the first Early Works site. Eighty-five percent of Earl Boyles students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches and the school is one of the most diverse in the state with its students speaking 17 different languages. Ultimately, the goal of the Early Works initiative is to close the achievement gap for these young students.

    “Kindergarten teachers are reporting that the incoming kindergartners this year are more socially and academically ready than ever before,” says Ericka Guynes, Earl Boyles principal. “This year the teachers have been able to move through the kindergarten curriculum at a much faster pace and are getting to academic areas earlier in the year that they typically don’t reach until the very end.”

    The progress is showing up in this year’s assessment data; it’s not just anecdotal, Guynes says.

    “Our kindergarten benchmark data is at the highest level it has ever been,” she says.

    By winter, 73 percent of the Earl Boyles kindergarten students were meeting benchmarks. In previous years, this number had been closer to 40 percent. Eighty percent is the target.

    Despite the room for growth, it is incredibly positive and heartening to see that the preschool does appear to be moving Earl Boyles students in the right direction and setting these children on the path toward future success. We look forward to seeing what the numbers look like next year when virtually all of the incoming Earl Boyles kindergartners will have had this rich early learning experience.

    These data further support the Children’s Institute’s 2015 legislative agenda. We are actively advocating for an additional $30 million investment in high-quality preschool programs over the next two years to serve an additional 1,500 low-income Oregon children each year. Our legislative agenda is driven by the evidence. We know that high-quality preschool works and we want more children from under-served communities statewide to have the opportunities that Earl Boyles students have had.

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  • Closing the digital divide at Earl Boyles Elementary

    KatiaBlog-TechOn a recent Tuesday morning, Earl Boyles Elementary School preschool teacher Katie Herro poses a question to her three- and four-year old students sitting in a circle in front of a digital whiteboard. "How do you build a house?" she asks, and after some exchange with her students she summons one child to come up and touch the house pictured on the screen. A time-lapse video starts in which construction workers lay a foundation, hang beams and drywall, and eventually complete a finished home – in about three minutes. The students sit with rapt attention, chiming in occasionally about windows and doors and giggling.

    The whiteboard and this exercise are part of a new initiative at Earl Boyles Elementary in Portland's David Douglas School District designed to improve outcomes for students through technology, and in particular to ensure that the children in these schools are just as fluent in their use of technology as their more privileged peers. Roughly 80 percent of children at Earl Boyles Elementary qualify for free and reduced-price lunch.

    "It's an effort to address the digital divide," says Julie Omelchuck, program manager at Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission, the organization that funded the technology initiative at Earl Boyles. As part of the cable regulatory commission's TechSmart project, the school received almost $1 million to outfit its teachers, classrooms, and students with the latest educational technology.

    Omelchuck says a major reason the commission selected Earl Boyles for the award was the school was already engaged in the Children's Institute's Early Works initiative, an effort to align resources and public programs to improve opportunities for young students. Ultimately, the goal of the Early Works initiative is to close the achievement gap for these young students.

    "It really perfectly aligned with the commission's goal to invest in public school projects that were specifically addressing the disparities among students," she says, "There are huge economic impacts for students who don't have access to technology."

    Many jobs of the future, Omelchuck says, will demand an understanding of how to use technology as a tool to collaborate with others, to learn and to instruct. The commission hopes to help schools provide these critical skills to children who don't otherwise learn them at home.

    The organization hopes to share what it learns with other public educators, a goal that is also an underlying tenant of the Early Works initiative.

    A significant component of the commission's grant pays for a technology coach who floats from classroom to classroom at Earl Boyles. Coach Luan Nguyen's job involves not only making sure the technology in the classroom is up and running, but that teachers are aware of best practices around it. "It's about educating the teachers as much as the kids," says Nguyen. "You can hand a teacher the latest and greatest technology and if they don't know how to use it in their classroom, it's pointless."

    The grant will be distributed over three years and provides technology to students in all grades. As a result, strolling through the halls of Earl Boyles Elementary this year feels like taking a trip to visit schoolrooms of the future. First grade students, engaged in reading exercises, sit with personal headsets linked to small laptops at circular tables. In small glass observation rooms adjacent to classrooms, speakers pipe in the sounds from inside the room -- with a small adjustable knob to control the volume -- so that observers can listen and watch without interrupting the students and teachers.

    The leadership at both the commission and Earl Boyles are also cognizant of perceived and real hazards of overusing technology in the classrooms. "There's a perception that when we talk about technology, we're talking about just screen time," says Omelchuck. "But if you look at the technology that they're really using, the teachers are key to the learning in the classroom. What the technology does is give them tools to individualize and enhance the instruction."

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